NERDS can lift any sad or sick spirit. After a couple days of feeling under the weather, involving little movement and work, I made my way to the Union to watch this semester’s production of Bloom. And that was certainly the highlight of an otherwise bad weekend.
As a purely student-run theater group, this original production was amazing in terms of its talent in acting, singing, composing, and writing, as well as the powerful message it conveyed. Despite some curtain technical difficulties (handled with poise and laughter) and an extended intermission due to the game (GO BLUE), the cast carried on and performed this important work filled with heartfelt, heavy content that is not represented in media enough. The importance of the opportunity NERDS provides students cannot be emphasized enough. Diana Yassin, part of the ensemble, said, “It was a really good experience because I’ve never done anything theater-based in high school because it was always really intense and stressful and scary. But then I came here…and it was really fun and there’s not a lot of pressure on it and everyone’s really nice.” You heard it here folks: NERDS makes dreams come true.
Leah King and Asritha Vinnakota’s portrayal of best friends Margot and Aggie, each struggling to make sense of their own sexualities, was very real and authentic. Their misguided intentions and projected insecurities are problems all too common in friendships and the community. The fact that this Austen-era world highly resembles today’s world still is disconcerting. But it is works like this that is changing the narrative.
This musical had many intricate layers that complicated the lives of the characters. Playwrite Sarah Costello did an amazing job highlighting the difficulties of being understood, even among close friends and people who might understand you better than you might think. The tension between Margot and Aggie was heartbreaking, as their struggles were more similar than they knew, showing how one’s identity may obscure the understanding of another’s.
Taking place in a world where impromptu love duets determine your fate, Margot’s inability to romantically duet led to many raw solos that Leah absolutely killed. Asritha’s gut-wrenching performance of “Right In Front Of Your Eyes” showed everyone the silent struggles Aggie also deals with as she grapples with her own feelings of bisexuality. Toby Jaroslaw’s well-intentioned Ollie complicated the situation but despite his embarrassment, his continued support at the end is a perfect example of how one should treat someone who comes out as asexual and aromantic — exactly how you treated them before (and his proposal number “Next To You” was stuck in my head for the rest of the night). As the town’s outcast, Ellen Paquet’s song as Aunt Clarabel was so beautiful, it was exactly what Margot needed to hear. And the platonic duet between Margot and Aggie at the end was truly heartwearming as each character began to accept that they are exactly who they are meant to be.
The costumes were beautifully designed and symbolically important. Margot’s stunning dress — purple, white, and black — was the color of the flag for asexuality, and Aggie’s was the color of bisexuality — pink, lavender, and blue. The subtle symbols may seem small, but they are huge for raising awareness, as well as being an integral part of each character.
Bloom was truly groundbreaking in terms of representation for invisible and misunderstood minorities. Castmember Fareah Fysudeen commented on the significance of this musical, saying, “I think it’s really important for representation…and I’m sure it meant a lot to people in the crowd and onstage. Overall, it was just a really enriching experience.” Just as Sarah wrote the change she wanted to see, every member of NERDS believed in the power of this musical and dedicated three months of their time to this production, being the change they also wanted to see onstage.
Championing platonic love over romantic love, a concept foreign to many heteronormative people, is not weird or abnormal. Being aromantic or asexual does not mean something is wrong with you. Just as Margot was a beautiful character that gradually found her way to happiness and acceptance, if you are struggling to find your place with your sexuality, Bloom shows that there is a community that cares. You are wanted, you are accepted, you are loved, and you are supported. You, too, will bloom.